Two years after being mentored by the eminent Swiss architect Peter Zumthor as part of the Rolex Arts Initiative programme, Paraguayan architect Gloria Cabral has won the 2018 Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture. The award, given
jointly by <em>Architects’ Journal</em> and <em>Architectural Review</em>, includes £10,000 to support the 35 year-old architect’s professional development.
Cabral’s small but innovative practice, Gabinete de Arquitectura, had previously risen to international notice in 2016, as winner of the Golden Lion award as Best Participant at the Venice Architecture Biennale. At that point, she had
just completed her mentorship with with Zumthor.
The Gemmill Prize was established following the death of Moira Gemmill, the widely admired director of design at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. In winning the prize, Cabral joins a roster of internationally well-known previous winners,
including Francine Houben, and Jeanne Gang.
Cabral, a partner in the Gabinete de Arquitectura with Solano Benítez, is known for designing architecture with humble, specifically relevant materials, often used in original ways. The fundamental intention of the Asunción-based practice
is to create architecture with inexpensive, locally available materials to provide buildings, jobs, and community involvement.
In an interview with Rolex, Cabral said: “For me it is impossible to disassociate architecture from society. We always try to define architecture as a tool – a marvellous one! – to transform our society. Everything we think or say can
be read in our constructions. We are a practice that projects and builds, and participates in the process of learning. We are trying all the time to produce knowledge.”
The Gabinete de Arquitectura’s past projects have included the transformation of an abandoned house into a bank in Asunción and the creation of the Fundación TEXO exhibition space in an extended private house in the same city. Recycled
materials were used in both schemes.
Projects currently under way include a house designed in cooperation with Mexican artist Bosco Sodi, which will strengthen the environmental consciousness of children in Oaxaca, Mexico. In Argentina, Cabral’s practice is contributing to
improvements in living conditions in the Villa 31 slum area of Buenos Aires, which contains a large number of expatriate Paraguayans. The Gabinete de Arquitectura is also designing a temporary exhibition space for the Cartier Foundation,
Paris, which will show Latin American works based on geometry in July.
The Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architects under 45 years old is judged on work produced in the previous two years. In Cabral's case, the projects were the Texo Foundation Gallery, Banco BASA, and the Faculty of Architecture, Art and Design
in Asunción, whose structure is composed of hundreds of triangulated brick elements.
The Gemmill Prize jury singled out Cabral’s deep understanding of materials and construction, commending her for her “sensitive appreciation of the life and use of the buildings she designs”. Emily Booth, Editor of <em>Architects’
Journal</em>, added: “Gloria Cabral has such energy and passion for her work, and this just shines through. From her sensitive understanding of materials to her creative vision, she is a most deserving winner of the Moira Gemmill
Prize for Emerging Architecture.”